Seven years, two months, two weeks, and three days ago, I got on a plane with my family.
We had eight suitcases, containing clothes and shoes, linens, toys, books, laptops. Everything we would need to sustain us until the rest of our things – our beloved dining room set, bookcases, kitchen items, even more books and toys – arrived at our new home, that we had previously selected and rented. We had assistance on the ground from family and friends as we got through what I jokingly deemed “the worst vacation ever – we’re spending it in banks and offices.”
But my immigration story is not like many stories. It started in safety and comfort and ended in safety and comfort. I have two passports. My new government offers me money for my children, gives me health insurance at affordable rates, and allows me many freedoms.
My old government also allowed me many freedoms. I lived there in safety, had jobs and friends and a place to live. I worshiped as I pleased. Privilege can cross continents.
This isn’t about me.
This is about the people who are fleeing for their lives because their countries are literally burning down around them.
This is about the people whose religion, gender, race, orientation, political affiliation, or status are persecuted in their hometowns.
The people who just want to be able to see the sun and walk around without fear of being hurt. Who want to be able to get a job and put food on the table. To practice their religion, raise kids, love, learn, and live.
While my privilege as an immigrant is so obvious it’s nearly blinding, I think these are some things that I share with other immigrants:
- I want to “do right” by my new country.
- I want to serve it.
- I want to make it better.
- I see its flaws, but I am nevertheless so happy to be a part of it.
- I want my children to be a part of it, to be fully fluent in its language and culture in a way I will never be.
- I want to be from here, not see this place as a way station.
The idea that immigrants, especially people who are seeking refuge, are poison is poisonous to me.